Skin pigmentation is an important human phenotypic trait whose regulation, in spite of recent advances, has not yet been fully understood. The pigment melanin is produced in melanosomes by melanocytes in a complex process called melanogenesis. The melanocyte interacts with endocrine, immune, inflammatory and central nervous systems, and its activity is also regulated by extrinsic factors such as ultraviolet radiation and drugs. We have carried out a review of the current understanding of intrinsic and extrinsic factors regulating skin pigmentation, the melanogenesis stages and related gene defects. We focused on melanocyte-keratinocyte interaction, activation of melanocortin type 1 receptor (MC1-R) by peptides (melanocyte-stimulating hormone and adrenocorticotropic hormone) resulting from proopiomelanocortin (POMC) cleavage, and mechanisms of ultraviolet-induced skin pigmentation. The identification and comprehension of the melanogenesis mechanism facilitate the understanding of the pathogenesis of pigmentation disorders and the development of potential therapeutic options.